UFC 239 wrapped up International Fight Week in Las Vegas this past Saturday. Here are three takeaways from the best card of the year.
UFC 239 was one of the most hyped up cards of 2019, and it lived up to all of the expectations. Both title fights on the card were excellent, as the main event saw Jon Jones just outlasting title contender Thiago Santos to retain his light heavyweight championship. The co-main featured a bantamweight championship fight between defending two-weight champion Amanda Nunes, and former bantamweight champion Holly Holm. A bout that Nunes went on to win, adding yet another former world champion to her resume.
The card also featured big results such as Jorge Masvidal defeating Ben Askren in five seconds with a flying knee, Jan Błachowicz upsetting Luke Rockhold in the second round, and in a battle of former Ultimate Fighter winners, Micheal Chiesa dominating Diego Sanchez.
Here are a few takeaways from that crazy night in Vegas.
Thiago Santos should face Jon Jones again, when healthy
It’s hard to not look at Thiago Santos’s performance at UFC 239 and not give him props. The former middleweight went into the fight as a tremendous underdog, with many seeing his only path to victory as an early knockout. Instead, Santos showed a more technical side that we hadn’t seen before, and despite a knee injury early took the dominant Jones to a decision. With one judge and many fans believing that he won the fight. The first time in Jones’ amazing career that someone has beaten him on any judge’s scorecard.
Santos started out strong, taking the first round according to all three judges. Doing massive damage to Jones’ legs in the first, Santos looked to continue his work in the second round. However, Santos injured his knee in the second round, and while he would fight on, it severely hampered his movement and absolutely affected Santos’ chances of pulling an all-time upset. However, Santos remained competitive, winning on one scorecard, and even having many notable MMA personalities such as Brett Okamoto and Chael Sonnen scoring the fight for him.
Santos’ performance is even more surprising when you examine both main event fighter’s careers to that point. Jon Jones is considered by many to be one of the greatest fighters of all-time, with his resume reading like a hall-of-fame list. Having defeated multiple MMA legends in dominating fashion, it was hard for most to see Thiago Santos having a chance against him. Santos was a career middleweight who could never break into the top-10 until he moved up to 205 pounds, where he went on a three-fight winnings streak to earn a title opportunity.
We recently learned the extent of the damage to Thiago Santos’ left knee, and it was much worse than we first thought. An MRI after the fight showed that the left knee meniscus and three ligaments are completely torn. Those injuries should put Santos on the shelf for at least a year. With Dana White not wanting an immediate rematch for Jon Jones next, it seems he will get his wish.
But when Santos is healthy and ready to return, it’s hard to argue that he shouldn’t get a rematch against Jones. The light heavyweight division is light on title challengers at the moment, and when someone arguably defeats Jon Jones, it’s hard to not want to see that again. It’ll also be a lot more fun when Santos has two working knees as well. Who wouldn’t want to see that fight again with a healthy Santos?
Well, besides Dana White of course.
Jorge Masvidal needs to face Kamaru Usman next
Going into UFC 239, the welterweight showdown between Jorge Masvidal and Ben Askren was seen as a potential title eliminator bout. The fight had lots of bad blood going into it, as both men were talking loads of trash about the other. Many fans saw the fight as the best fight on the card and thought IT had “fight of the night” potential. Instead, Jorge Masvidal only needed five seconds.
Well to clarify, he really only needed two seconds. Jorge Masvidal ran across the cage at the start of the bout and threw a flying knee at Askren, Askren fell into it, and that was it. Askren was out cold two seconds into the fight and a couple of unnecessary (or necessary if you ask Masvidal) shots later and the fight was over. Jorge Masvidal needed only five seconds to defeat the 19-0, former ONE and Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren.
This is also the second time in a row that Jorge Masvidal got a highlight-reel knockout. The last time being in March, knocking Darren Till out cold and silencing the London crowd. Before that fight, Masvidal hadn’t fought since 2017, where he lost to Stephen Thompson at UFC 217. However MMA is all about what you’ve done lately, and Masvidal has knocked out two top-five talents in a row.
Many believe that Masvidal’s friend and teammate Colby Covington should get the shot at Usman next, as Covington defeated Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 225 last year to win the interim welterweight championship. However, he never got the shot at the undisputed strap due to an injury, and was thus stripped of his interim status. It’s hard to stay in line when you don’t fight, and Covington hasn’t fought in over a year. Since then, Masvidal has made his return and solidified himself as the number-one contender.
Colby Covington takes on Robbie Lawler next month, and while a win could get his name back in the title conversation, right now Jorge Masvidal should be next for the champion Usman.
Multiple fighters need to consider retirement coming out of this card
UFC 239 had some of the highest highs and some of the lowest lows. While there were many amazing performances from many athletes in their prime, many of those performances came at the expense of fighters that are past their prime and shouldn’t be fighting anymore. Some of these fighters shouldn’t be fighting for different reasons, but they all need to take a look at potentially hanging the gloves up.
First up is former bantamweight champion, Holly Holm. Holm is one of the greatest combat athletes of all time, having been a boxing champion, kickboxing champion, and UFC champion. However, since defeating Ronda Rousey in 2015, she has gone 2-5 and having lost in possibly her last title opportunity against Amanda Nunes at UFC 239, it may be time for her to hang them up. She’s accomplished so much already, and while still competitive there has been a drastic decline since her championship win over Rousey at UFC 193.
Keeping in line with former champions, Luke Rockhold should really consider retirement. Luke Rockhold is one of the few MMA stars that could get out easily, as he already spends time as a model in his spare time and is the face of Ralph Lauren cologne. Rockhold won the UFC middleweight championship at UFC 194, with an incredible win over Chris Weidman. However, since then, he has gone 1-3, with all losses being via brutal knockout. With injuries mounting, and knockouts piling up, it may be time for Rockhold to examine his future in MMA.
Diego Sanchez is not a former world champion as our previous fighters, but he’s still one of the most accomplished UFC fighters of all time. Being the first ever Ultimate Fighter winner, fighting professionally since 2002, he has defeated some of the best in MMA over the years. However, with all those years, comes a lot of damage. Sanchez has taken thousands of strikes over the years and took almost 100 in his 30-26 loss to Michael Chiesa this past weekend. He’s still competitive but at some point, there’s only so much damage one person can take to the brain. It seems Diego Sanchez could reach that point soon if he hasn’t already.
In MMA, it’s hard to tell someone when it’s time. Now while it’s arguable that these fighters should retire or not, the conversation should at least be had.